Shouldering the Seasons

Change?

Not my strongest suit.

Once as a kid I came home to my Mom’s house after a weekend away at my Dad’s only to find that she had changed my bed sheets. It was full-bore – new fitted and flat and fancy pillows at that. It was beautiful.

I hated it.

Instead of snuggling up to the newness, I shunned it. I refused to sleep. Literally. For a week my poor Mom had to deal with me staying up all night yelling about my old sheets and refusing the new. She had to tell parents of friend’s houses I visited that week to make sure I didn’t sleep while I was there, in the hopes that I might exhaust myself and fall asleep at night (you know, like a normal little human).

Nope.

I’d find my way into tiny closets and hidden nooks and crannies in order to catch a few Z’s, enough to keep myself awake for the night ahead.

A simple stand-off, right?

This will put it into perspective (and perhaps remind you of a moment in time when animal movies were all the rage. Think “Free Willy”, “Fly Away Home” and “Homeward Bound”. Nostalgic yet?):

I loved animals (still do) and I wanted nothing more than to see the one, the only “Operation Dumbo Drop”! This was a movie after my own heart: basically an elephant was in danger and had to be moved to a safe location via air (which poses a challenge when you’re crating an elephant). And then some shenanigans ensue and laughs are had, cue the lonely teardrop from your eye as the music picks up and he is saved! Right?

I don’t know because I never got to see the movie because I wouldn’t just go to bed. The deal was: If I would just go to sleep for one night I could see the movie. One night.

I couldn’t. The sheets weren’t right. Change was upon me without invitation and I would fight it tooth and nail. Eventually, exhausted by my night-time tirades my Mom replaced my old sheets. All was good in my world again and the fact that I didn’t get to see the movie that I had pined for paled in comparison to the cozy reality that we (my sheets an I) were reunited and it felt so good.

Looking back on this now I’m a little embarrassed for the panic towards change and at the same time proud of the stubborn little lady I was. The stubbornness remains but that inability to accept change? I mean, that’s so different from how I am now. Right?

I like to think that I am a Roll with the Punches, Quick-Footed, Easy Going Gal.

That’s what I like to think.

I mean, change is inevitable, right so why not take it smoothly? Like water off a duck’s back. That’s how I deal with change. I give myself real-life examples to back it up:

Hey, you moved to Alaska in the middle of winter and rode it out pretty well.

You can generally find a smile in the situation (like the time you had to walk three miles home in the pouring rain because you had woken up to blue skies and packed your bag (a.k.a no rain jacket, a rookie mistake in AK)) accordingly.

Overall you tend to see the positive in things.

So when the seasons started to shift here from Winter to Spring, I wondered why that stubborn, panicked little lady showed back up again.

I am not ready for Spring.

I grew up hearing from my Grandma that California doesn’t have seasons. I didn’t understand. I mean, Grandma, the leaves in the fall create a magnificent trifecta of gold, orange and red. The trees (some) lose their leaves. It rains for a little bit. Then some flowers pop up. Then it’s sunny again for about eight months. We totally have seasons.

Wrong.

Here, in Alaska (or in Missouri, where my much wiser than I Grandma Gam lives) there are seasons and thus, I was introduced to the term “Shoulder Season”.

Huh?

The in-between.

The transition.

The change.

It turns out, I’m not as great with change as I thought (cue in the “no duh”). Change that I induce (i.e. moving to Alaska. Scary? Yes. But voluntary, nonetheless. Getting caught in the rain? Romantic at worst. If you can’t laugh at that, well it’s time for a hug followed by some good belly laughs to come your way) is not such a big deal. I can roll with those punches. But the sneaky knockout of a seasonal shift? Yowzers. It came without warning.

As a true Californian, I thought nothing of the impending Spring. Fall back, Spring forward. I did it. No biggie, right?

Except, no, Spring is more than just a time shift, more than just a nod to the Equinox (which is somewhat irrelevant this far North, since we had been gaining daylight past an equal day and night much faster than farther South **Correction: after a ski with a girlfriend we got to talking and this is not entirely correct. Through talks and research with friends and The Chief we discovered that although our location in Alaska had over equal day and night at the Equinox (around 12 hours and 17+ minutes of daylight versus night) this is not specific to our Northern location. New York was slightly over equal parts day and night and my home in California was about 9 minutes behind us in AK. The shift from Daylight Savings to Equinox felt exaggerated because we had been used to so much dark but it did not mean that we actually had more light, just that it felt as if we did. However, at this point, we will be gaining daylight at a faster rate and head towards the Summer of all day sun. Phew! That got confusing…and fascinating)). It’s a shift in everything and none of it has shifted to what I’m used to or to what Spring typically means to me (i.e. blue skies, bright green fields of grass, tulips, rainbows, puppies, kitties, gumdrops…o.k. maybe that’s a little overly fantastic view but it is pretty fantastic. Bright, light and colorful). It usually means this:

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Photo courtesy Mr. Mike Sloat (Rock God and apparently a California Tourism Bureau Photographer, or at least he should be)

and this:

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Oh what I would give for fresh-cut flowers to light the room

Just when I got the hang of Winter, enough to feel confident and to see the bigger picture, Spring has sprung, the picture has changed and a whole new set of how-to’s and to-do’s arise, as do the surprises.

Like, tourists. In March? Apparently so. Suddenly, our quiet little town was taken over (and by taken over I mean probably 20 people arrived, but when your population is around 30, it feels like an invasion of sorts). The term “Spring Break” became a two-pronged meaning, both ominous in description, signifying either time off from school and thus family vacations venturing out here or “Spring Break-Up”, meaning the time when the rivers start to break open and everything melts. It looms in the future.

Spring Break came and continues (apparently the schools are staggered in their time off and so the influx is more of a constant wave). Everyday I see more and more cars and people and the pitter patter in my heart never ceases to surprise me. I love people! But when you’ve spent the winter hunkered down knowing everyone around you, outsiders feel even more foreign and the whole place just feels (and is) louder.

And then, the weather, another change I never anticipated disliking. More sun? Yes, please.

Right?

Kind of.

In our departure from California I wondered how the lack of sun would affect me. When late December came and the day was nearly over come 3pm it did affect me until I learned ways to deal with it (mainly, get outside for as long as you can before you lose sun). But this sudden overhaul of daylight? Being able to walk by a still lit sky at 9pm? That too is making me wiggle in my (now too hot for the weather) snow boots. It’s just a little too much too fast.

The sun is a welcome presence but with it comes the anxiety of Spring Fever. There is so much to do before Summer and so much to see before the wild gets overrun with people. Spring having sprung makes it feel like Summer is breathing down our backs. I found myself yelling at the sky on my walk home from work to ask for snow, begging for the melting to slow and the snow to return and then realizing it’s totally out of my control.

This happened within a few days. I panicked.

And then, the sunny days turned to grey. The sky is no longer singing the song of Spring, it is singing the song of rain while you’re hoping for snow. Things started melting, now they are sloshing about. Personally, I love Slurpees. I don’t love walking in Slurpees. It’s the in between before the ground reappears and you know what, it’s awkward. Footing is awkward and driving is an exercise in recently unearthed rock and new puddle (yellow puddle) avoidance.

Roll with the punches, huh?

Sheesh, Spring even means a new approach to dressing myself. Bibs are too hot, boots are too hot, snow turns to slush and rain gear comes out (oh, wait, I don’t have any rain gear). Shoulder Season Wardrobes are a thing I never even considered (again, just as I was actually learning to dress myself for Winter, this little wrench jumps in). Everything is a little different and even the things that you thought you’d never miss, well, suddenly you feel the loss of their presence. You miss things like:

Frozen eyelashes and mustaches.thumb_IMG_4592_1024

 

The sound of a log splitting at twenty below.

 

Catching the sunrise and sunset thanks to late sunrises and early sunsets (luckily there’s still enough snow for doggie snow angels).

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The crunch of your footsteps in snow.

 

Snow laden trees (aka Snow Globe Fairytale Trees).

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Going to a party a being so surprised that 8 whole people are there.

 

…and the fuzziest toes you ever seen.

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Heck, you even miss the snowy Ramp of Doom (still dangerous but now less so without the added ice feature).

People tell you: Sit in the uncomfortable and enjoy the impermanence. Mmmmmk? Well, I may have gotten a little winter belly, but I am no Buddha. Doing these two things is harder than I ever imagined.

And so, I’m trying to embrace the change. To realize that Winter too will come again. To enjoy seeing and smelling the exposed patches of dirt (from which snow melt is exponentially increased because of heat absorption, but no, it’s totally great), to be amazed by the blooms rising straight from the snow

 

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Woah, Willow You Wow Me.

 

 

to meet new animals like this little feller:

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A Sneaky Ptarmigan (they say not to pronounce the “P” but I encourage it) **Correction: when I asked The Chief what kind of bird this was he replied “A Ptarmigan, or a Spruce Grouse” meaning: “Oh, wait, not a Ptarmigan, a Spruce Grouse.” I took them as interchangeable, either/or. I was wrong. This is a Spruce Grouse but you know what? I might just call it a Ptarmigan anyways until I actually see a real one because that name is way more fun to say.

and overall to just enjoy that which is currently happening, rather than wishing for something else. Instead of expecting a sunny day and being disappointed by a gloomier one, taking to the cabin and finding inside jobs or having a movie day (that feels pretty excessively luxurious but I’m forcing myself to try). Letting off the gas, heck even off the wheel and accepting that which will come. It’s all so much easier said than done, but nonetheless, I’m still trying.

I guess I can’t say that I’m as far from my “Operation Dumbo Drop” days as I thought I could but I can say that I haven’t caused anyone else to lose sleep over this newly revisited aversion to change, so that’s gotta count as some progress, right? Sorry again, Mom. Thanks for not putting me up for adoption, that was very cool of you.

And although I’m not as enlightened by the joys of impermanence as I thought, although I cling to comfort like a baby to a breast and a monkey to your back, I know that some part of myself put me here to learn this and to re-evaluate how well I actually rock with the tides or see if instead I try to struggle against them. Alaska life certainly does keep you constantly reinventing your disposition. Challenging and changing how you see things and how you react to shifts great and small. She likes to get you comfortable in the uncomfortable and that, well it’s just not comfortable. But hey, she keeps you on your toes (and when you refuse to learn, she throws you on your back gently but sternly like you would a puppy in training).

So here’s to this new season and the uncertainty it brings. Cheers to Spring both light and dark. For Spring has sprung, whether we ourselves turned the handle of the Jack-in-the-Box of seasons or it sprang itself. Surprise!

Cheers to the change.

 

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